If I were to rent a movie at a local video store like Blockbuster, each rental would cost somewhere around $4 (this is an extremely charitable estimate, as I'm sure it's probably closer to $5 at this point), plus the expense in time and effort (I mean, come on, I'd have to drive about a mile out of my way to go to one of these places!) Netflix costs me $15.99 a month for the 3-disc-at-a-time plan (this plan was $17.99 when I signed up, but decreased in price two times during around two years of membership), so it takes about 4-5 Netflix rentals to recoup my costs and bring the price of an average rental down below $4. I've been a member for one year and ten months... how did I do (click for a larger version)?
A few notes on the data:
- The chart shows both DVD rentals and movies or shows watched online through Netflix's "Watch Instant" service. There are certain distinctions that should be made here, namely that DVD rentals are measured by the date the DVD was returned, while Watch Instant rentals are measured when you watch them. Also, when watching a TV series on Watch Instant, each episode counts as a separate rental (if I were watching on DVD, there's usually 3-4 episodes on one disc, but since I'm watching on the Watch Instant service, each episode counts as a separate rental).
- As you can see, my initial usage was a little erratic, though I apparently tend to fall into a 4-5 month pattern (and you can see two nearly identical curves in 2007) where DVD rentals range from 6-13 per month. 13 appears to be my ceiling for a month, though I've hit that several times.
- I've only fallen below the 4 disc per month ratio needed to bring the average rental down below $4 once (twice if you count July 2006, but that was my first month of service and does not constitute a full month's worth of data). To be honest, I don't remember why I only returned 2 movies in January 2007, but that was the first and only time I fell below the necessary 4 rentals.
- My Watch Instantly service usage started off with a bang in July 2007 but quickly trailed off until 2008, when usage skyrocketed. This is when I discovered the TV show Dexter and quickly worked my way through all of the first season episodes (13 in all). Following Dexter, I started in on Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex and I just finished that today (expect a review later this week), so that means I watched 26 episodes online. Expect this to drop sharply next month (though I still plan on using it significantly, as I'll be following along with Filmspotting's 70's SF marathon, which features several movies in the Watch Instantly catalog). All in all, it's a reasonable service, though I have to admit that watching it on my computer just isn't the same - I bought that 50" widescreen HDTV for a reason, you know...
- You'll also notice that both March and April of 2008 have me hitting the ceiling of 13 movies per month. This is the first time I've done that in consecutive months and is largely due to watching BSG season 3 and my discovery and addiction to The Wire.
- As of April 2008, I'm averaging 9 movies a month (I've rented 198 DVDs). Even if I were to use my original price of $17.99 a month, that works out to around $2 a DVD rental. When you factor in the price drops and the Watch Instantly viewing (I've watched 51 things, though again, in some cases what I'm watching is a single episode of a TV show), I'm betting it would come out around $1.50-$1.75.
This has been an interesting exercise, because I feel like I'm a little more consistent than the data actually shows. I'm really surprised that there are several months where my rentals went down to 6... I could have sworn I watched at least 2-3 discs a week, with the occasional exception. Still, an average of 9 movies a month is nothing to sneeze about, I guess. I've heard horror stories of where Netflix will start throttling you and take longer to deliver discs if you go above a certain amount of rentals per month (at a certain point, the cost of processing your rentals becomes more than you're paying, which I guess is what prompts Netflix to start throttling you), but I haven't had a problem yet. If I keep up my recent viewing habits though, this could change...